What is an application letter?
Also known as a cover letter, an application letter is a summary of your strongest and most relevant skills and abilities that will be expanded in your resume or selection criteria. It introduces you to potential employers and highlights your suitability for the position you are applying for.
All written applications should include an application letter. In many cases, your application letter is just as important as your resume. It is unlikely that your resume will be read if your application letter doesn't make a good first impression.
The Dos and Don'ts
A Cover Letter should :
- Be professional in appearance
- Be tailored to the job under application
- Be one A4 page in length
- Be addressed to a specific person (only use Dear Sir/Madam if you're unable to find out the appropriate person's name)
- Include your reason for writing
- Demonstrate your interest in and knowledge of the organisation
- Highlight relevant skills and experience you have to offer
- Include evidence that you have the skills sought after by the employer
- Refer to any documents you have enclosed in the application (e.g. resume)
- Express willingness for an interview
- Be written using enthusiastic and positive language
A Cover Letter should NOT:
- Be generic
- Apologise for qualities, qualifications or experience you don't have - emphasise what you do
- Repeat exactly what is in the resume
- Be copied from resume publications - employers do recognise them!
- Focus on what you expect to gain from the organisation - include what the organisation will gain from you
- Include unsupported claims about your skills
- Have spelling mistakes and typos
- Include jargon / acronyms not clear to the reader
- Be sent without proofreading it first
What to include
At the top ↑:
- Name and address of company / organisation you are applying to
- The date, eg. 26 September 2018
- A formal greeting using the appropriate title and name of the addressee, e.g. Dear Ms Smith, NOT Dear Sarah. It is always best to address your letter to a specific person. If the name is not provided in the job ad, phone the organisation and ask reception for the name and title of the addressee. Use Mr/Ms if you are unsure of the title, not Mrs/Miss. Use ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ only if you are unable to find out.
- A heading with reference to the job under application, e.g. Re: Application for [name of position], reference number (if applicable)
At the bottom ↓:
- An appropriate 'sign-off', e.g. Yours faithfully,
- Your name and contact details (address, phone number(s), email address)
The beginning of your application letter should include:
- The position you are applying for
- Where you saw the job advertisement
- A sentence or 2 about why you think you are a great fit for the role and the organisation
The body of the application letter is where you 'sell yourself. It should address the key requirements stated in the job ad, describing how you have the required qualifications, knowledge, skills and experience.
Identify keywords, phrases and skills mentioned in the ad and focus on emphasising your strengths in these areas. It isn't necessary to include everything mentioned in the job ad. Instead, focus on three to five of the most important elements.
Points to remember:
- Keep to one theme per paragraph and support your claims with examples.
- Write persuasively
- Explain why you are interested in the position or working for the company / organisation
- State the value you will bring to the position
- Identify how your achievements and skills qualify you for the role
At the end of the letter:
- Refer to any attached documentation, including your resume
- Express interest in further discussing your application and the available position in an interview
- Indicate your availability for an interview and your contact details
- Sign off with with 'Yours sincerely' (or 'Yours faithfully' if you addressed the application to Dear Sir/Madam)
Below are some useful links providing further support with:
- How to structure an application letter
- What content to include
They also include example cover letters. Please note, it is important to use examples as a guide only. DO NOT copy the examples and use them as your own.
What is a Cover Letter?
Useful advice and tips from seek.com.
Cover Letters - The Good and The Bad
A few simple tips from seek.com to help you get your cover letter noticed.
Cover Letters - Monash University
More advice about format and content of a cover letter, as well as industry specific examples.